This review has been a long time coming. Released almost a year ago, it had been the strongest contender for being my album of the year, just before Spanish folk rockers Mägo de Oz decided to release a new album just before 2012 came to a close (a write-up about that album and why exactly it became my favourite album of the year can be found here). In the end though, there isn’t much qualitative leeway between both Mägo’s new effort and the brand new studio album from Canadian prog legend Rush, as both albums deliver top notch music with the respective bands performing at the top of their game.
Clocking in at about 66 minutes, Clockwork Angels is a progressive behemoth that encompasses everything Rush has become known for in twelve songs. Album openers Caravan and BU2B had already been tried out live before eventually landing on record, and the studio versions do not disappoint, where especially BU2B warrants special mention because of the rather heavy and aggressive sound. That heaviness runs like a thread throughout the rest of Clockwork Angels. Geddy Lee sounds less vocally strained than he did on past efforts, eschewing the highly pitched, trademarked Mickey Mouse vocals for a more natural sound. The man’s prowess on the bass, however, still goes unquestioned, and he plays as diverse and steady as ever. These obligatory kudos, as ever, also extend to guitarist Alex Lifeson and world class drummer Neil Peart. The threesome sound, even for their standards, unusually tight, and the cohesion makes for a thoroughly enjoyable record.
Of course, no level of playing could compensate for bad songs, and as it happens Clockwork Angels is stuffed with excellent ones. From the rambunctious openers to the slightly eastern sounding The Anarchist, the sweeping Seven Cities of Gold, Clockwork Angels has twelve very diverse songs, just showing how agile these boys can be in their songwriting. The Wreckers delivers some of the best choruses on the record, Headlong Flight is one big, frantic rocker, whilst Wish Them Well could well become a new live favourite. Clockwork Angel snuffs out like a candle with the laid-back ballad The Garden.
In the past six months Clockwork Angels has had the chance to gestate, and although I instantly warmed to the album, it has grown on me and still gets a spin at least once a week. There are no weak moments on Rush’s new album, as even the lesser songs are absolutely stellar. This is Rush at the very top of their game, and Clockwork Angels definitely belongs to the better half of their discography, which makes this required listening for every prog fan.
Label: Roadrunner Records
- Caravan (5:40)
- BU2B (5:10)
- Clockwork Angels (7:31)
- The Anarchist (6:52)
- Carnies (4:52)
- Halo Effect (3:14)
- Seven Cities of Gold (6:32)
- The Wreckers (5:01)
- Headlong Flight (7:20)
- BU2B2 (1:28)
- Wish Them Well (5:25)
- The Garden (6:59)
- Geddy Lee – bass guitar, bass pedals, lead vocals, synthesizers
- Alex Lifeson – guitar, additional keyboards
- Neil Peart – drums & percussion
Review by Ralph Plug